Home > Concepts & Principles > Defending yourself against multiple attackers

Defending yourself against multiple attackers

Defending yourself against multiple attackers is a serious problem. If you have to defend yourself against multiple attackers, the odds are in favor of it being more then just two attackers. Something to keep in mind is that attacks involving multiple attackers are more likely to result in serious injury and/or death. This may be due to the pack mentality.

Before things escalate into a actual physical conflict, there are other things that you could do, or consider as an option first.

Number one don’t put yourself in the situation in the first place. I consider avoidance to be the higher level skill. So stay out of places where trouble is common. If you have to walk through questionable places, and you see a group of people gathered on the sidewalk, cross the street and avoid them. Never walk through the middle of the group.

If however you couldn’t avoid being confronted there are psychological/verbal responses to consider using before a physical confrontation.

Whether you know the group you have to deal with, or don’t you may be able to reason with them and talk them out of a confrontation. There is generally a leader, and if there isn’t you can help them elect one by directing you conversation to one of them. Once you know who the leader is you can try to convince them to make it a one-on-one fight (presuming you couldn’t talk them out of a fight). You can do this by calling their leaders manhood/ honor in question, and suggesting that they should be able to handle you one-on-one unless the leader(person your talking to) is a coward. Try to get the gang to buy into it. If that doesn’t work you can tell the leader that no matter what happens your going to get him first. This my cause a weaker minded person to have self doubt, and maybe back off. At least cause them a hesitation.

While I’ve successfully used the above methods on many occasions, I’ve also found a percentage of groups aren’t distracted by such ploys. Especially those with trained members, and/or a lot of experience. If you’re dealing with people with intent that know what they are doing, using the above methods could possibly provide a warning that you will defend yourself. Which could take away your ability to launch a surprise first strike.

My approach to training is that you should always train for the worst case scenario. In other words “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best”. So to me that means that you need to know how a trained group of attackers will approach the situation. In order to train a realistic defense.

When two attack one person they should approach together, then spread out until they are on opposite sides of the person they are attacking. The idea is to force the defender to face one, while exposing his back to the other. Working as a team one should attack low while the other attacks high. They can either use a signal, or the person to the defenders back should attack the legs. Of course with more attackers you end up circling the defender. Under no circumstances should they attack one at a time. The whole idea is to work as a team.

With with the above in mind, you need to do everything possible to keep from getting flanked or surrounded. Take advantage of your surroundings. Use a building, sign, car, or anything else you can to put your back too. If you’re in doors, you might be able to use doorway or hallway to limit the attackers ability to flank you. Make sure you don’t put yourself in a corner. You need to always have an escape route.

Proper use of peripheral vision, mobility, knowing when to hit, and positioning are extremely important in this or any situation. Please see my earlier posts when to move, eye training, and positioning.

A concept that you need to think of when working against multiple attackers is the idea of stacking your attackers.

The idea is to fight them one at a time by positioning the attacker your dealing with between you and the others until he is done, then you move on to the next. Visualize staking them in the same way airplanes get stacked up waiting for their turn to use the runway. The best place to be is at the back of the person you’re engaged with so you can finish them, and they can’t harm you. So get behind them or turn them if possible. Obviously mobility is key here, because you will have to keep moving in order to maintain proper positioning (with your attackers stacked) since the other attackers will be trying to flank you to attack.

In closing I want to repeat one last time, that defending yourself against multiple attackers is a very dangerous, and risky thing to do. If there is anyway of avoiding it, or escaping altogether, choose that option.


Mike Murphy


Categories: Concepts & Principles
  1. Doug
    January 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I’ve had increased interest in the topic since moving to DC a little over a year ago because AT LEAST 3 group beatings have happened at L’ Enfant Plaza. One of these attacks happened right behind me while I was boarding a train. I helped the victim (a total stranger) from the ground, rode with him to his stop, and made calls to his friends using his phone because he had an obvious concussion. I followed up with him and he is fine now. My question is, should I have involved myself in the fight to help ward off the 2 or 3 attackers? I am not trained in fighting, but I’ve done some routines with the heavy bag for fitness, not defense. As I mentioned, there were 2 or 3 kids directly assaulting him, and it didn’t last over 20 seconds, but I’ve often felt that I should have instinctively jumped in. The whole thing happened so quickly too, I was almost in a daze. This past week, another beating happened to a 40-something guy by a group of A-Hole teens at the same train station and it always makes me think “What should I do if presented with this situation again?” One of the caveats of this story is no one came to the victim’s aid even after the fight.


    • mwmurphy59
      January 11, 2011 at 11:48 pm


      The answer is complicated. First thing you need to know is what are the legal ramifications if you get involved. What is the law there, what does law enforcement recommend? Depending on the answer where you are, you could be open to legal prosecution if you get involved in the fight. I would never recommend disobeying the law.

      Assuming that isn’t an issue you still run other risks. Are there any potential weapons involved? Do you know the people involved? I’ve seen situations where someone witnessed an altercation and tried to jump in to help. Only to be turned on by both sides, because they were the outsider. Assuming that you can determine that this isn’t the case in your situation, you still face meeting the same fate as the person you want to help should you intervene and lose.

      You might try talking or yelling first. Loudly and firmly repeatedly telling them to stop, and take it easy. See if you can talk them out of it. If they don’t stop you might try engaging others by loudly calling or yelling for the police, and asking people to get the police. The thought is that they won’t like the attention of witnesses, and will stop and leave pretty quickly.

      However this is not always the case. You run the risk of drawing the anger and attention of the attackers to yourself. At that point you may have to decide if you are going to take a physical stand, or stay out of reach until you can help or help arrives. As I said earlier if you try to intervene, and they get the upper hand you may face the same fate as the person you are trying to help. With multiple people involved the level of violence and damage can escalate to permanent injury or fatality very quickly. Only you on the scene can make the decision for yourself to engage in defending another.

      I would recommend becoming involved in a Neighborhood Watch Group, and possibly taking some self defense classes. These groups may be able to provide you with training resources in your area, or point you in the right direction. Here is a web site that might be a good place to start http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1242,q,560689,mpdcNav_GID,1523,mpdcNav,|.asp

      To quote Edmund Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

      I hope this helps.

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